The importance of maintenance when it comes to home insurance

When it comes to ensuring your home, there’s no better idiom than ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ to demonstrate why maintenance is so important in ensuring a smooth claims experience. Fixing small maintenance problems at the first sight of deterioration will prevent a small problem from becoming a larger and much costlier one in future.  Most importantly, a lack of maintenance could see your insurance claim rejected if the claim’s cause is a result of what is referred to as ‘wear and tear’.

Deanne van Doesburgh from Hollard explains that when it comes to insurance, the insured is responsible to prevent damage or loss by ensuring that assets are maintained in good working order.

“It’s important to remember that insurance is there to protect you against the impact of sudden, unforeseen and accidental events, and not for gradual wear and tear.  ‘Wear and tear’ refers to the gradual deterioration of an insured item caused by aging, normal usage or the environment, for example, exposure to weather, moths, and insects, rust, mildew and so on.  Insurance provides invaluable financial protection for when things go wrong unexpectedly so that you can get back on your feet and in the same position you were before things went awry.  It requires that you take some simple measures to minimise the cost of potential claims, and maintenance is just one of these measures, along with others such as ensuring that your security measures, for example, your alarm system, are kept in full working order and armed when you are not home.  These conditions are there so that insurers are not liable for ‘inevitable’ losses when the policyholder fails to protect their property, or fails to repair, or replace deteriorated or damaged portions of the property.  In a nutshell, insurance covers you for sudden and accidental events that you cannot prevent or anticipate, and not for events that can be prevented by making sure your property is well-maintained and secured,” explains Deanne.

Consider these simple examples to illustrate:

Lack of maintenance:

  • The wooden eaves of John’s garage roof have not been treated for years and have started to rot. Carpenter bees love to lay their eggs in weathered wood. Even though John has noticed the carpenter bees and the rot, he delays getting the eaves treated. The rotting spreads and as a result of one part of the roof caves in because the damaged eaves can no longer bear the weight of the roof.  After claiming from his insurer, John is advised that the cost to replace the eaves and re-tile the roof are not covered, leaving him with the hefty repair bill.
  • After a thunderstorm, Jane notices that her roof is leaking. She lodges an insurance claim for damage to her roof, and upon inspection, the assessor finds that the waterproofing and flashings have deteriorated over the years and a number of roof tiles are broken.  Her insurer, therefore, does not cover the cost of the repair of the roof or waterproofing since these have deteriorated due to a lack of maintenance.

Defective design:

  • Paul decides to raise the height of his boundary wall for security purposes.  He gets an informal builder to do the work to save some money and they proceed to build the wall up from 4 foot to 8 foot, and they install electric fencing on top of this.  No-one thinks to check that the existing wall foundations are suitable for the height and weight of the new wall.  After the first summer storm and winds, the wall collapses causing considerable damage and loss.  The insurer assessor determines that the wall collapsed because of faulty design and insufficient foundation strength, and not because of the storm, so Paul’s insurance claim is rejected.

It’s crucial to give your home the TLC it needs and to attend to any maintenance issues as soon as they arise.  Take care of the hard-earned assets you’ve already built up over the years, so if life does decide to unexpectedly dish out a few lemons along the way, your insurance will get you back to normal before you can say lemonade!

 

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